Thursday, June 11, 2009

For All You Twits Out There

Ordinarily, I consider myself a pretty mellow guy, usually looking for a way to make everyone happy and being more likely to bite my tongue rather than making a fuss when someone makes a scene. But sometimes, when people rub me the wrong way (or they approach me the wrong way), look out! The outcome is not going to be pretty -- for you!!

Not long ago, I received what I consider to be one of the most irritating "Tweets" (I should go on the record as saying it's technically not even a "Tweet" but a notification that someone was now following me on Twitter, and I even considered blocking this user from following me (although I haven't rushed into anything) from someone who follows more than 500 people, which will probably be 750 users before the week is over. This person's Twitter user name was "Diabetes Helper (diabetesnomore)".

The user name almost made my stomach turn. Naturally, I chose not to follow this person. But some of their stupid "Tweets" included the following comments:

# Diabetes doesn't need to stop you from traveling this summer, but its a good idea to stop by the doctor before you go : )

# 17 million americans suffer from diabetes, but knowledge is power, Knowing how to battle it can put you in control of your diabetes

# Sometimes we overeat because of the number of people we eat with, we don't have to eat alone, but lets be careful! :)

First of all, let me go on the record as saying that I don't need any "Diabetes Helpers" unless they've suddenly found a cure for autoimmunity which hasn't yet been shared with the scientific and medical communities. Nothing this person does is going to make my diabetes vanish (so much for their poorly-descriptive name "diabetesnomore"). Furthermore, I don't want any diet or exercise tips from them.

What I DO want is someone who actually bothers to understand that diabetes is not a single disease, and sending such ill-conceived advice is probably not going to help me at all and is far more likely to p!$$ me off. I'm willing to bet that I have more diabetes and nutrition information than they do, and I certainly won't be buying anything from them. (OK, I may very be a fossilized old troll, but I admit it!)

Why such a harsh assessment?

Perhaps I should give you some background on what I actually think about Twitter. Feel free to skip ahead if you don't want to read it -- I won't be offended.

Although I signed up for my user name on Twitter close to a year ago, my only motivation was to secure the login name so that no one else grabbed it! I think Twitter is way too overhyped and frankly, it has potential become tomorrow's MySpace (a social media community now owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., and one that is generally viewed as dying. -- Don't believe me? Traffic at that site is down. So are revenues. Senior executives are leaving in droves ... need I say more?). To be sure, Twitter is somewhat different from MySpace. At it's core, Twitter is really a facilitator of what I call "micro-blogging", so that is one positive for it.

For those who don't already know it, Twitter enables users to send (and read other users' updates) which are known as "Tweets". Tweets are text-based posts which are limited to a mere 140 characters in length and are displayed on the user's profile page and also delivered to other users who have subscribed to them (those people are known as "followers"). What makes Twitter different is that it's designed to handle very short posts sent via text messages (from one's mobile phone). That much is unique.

But let's be honest, from what I've seen, a lot of "Tweets" are really pretty inane. So much so, there's now a blog called "Twitter Backlash" which is dedicated to this very subject. Many Tweets could probably be called idiocracy (and that's being generous!). For example, kids who Tweet where they're going at every second of the day, which I find to be a complete waste of otherwise productive time. Franky, who gives a sh!t if you just got home from school, or walked the dog. IMHO (in my humble/honest opinion), this is useless information taken to a new level.

I only reluctantly joined Facebook (or "FB") but have since rediscovered & reconnected with many people I knew when I was growing up, so that has proven to have some utility I hadn't really expected. Of course, my experience appears to be similar to others, which I suspect is what prompted one Wall Street Journal writer to claim that Facebook was pretty much a social application for middle-aged people anyway!

Let me go on record as saying that I haven't sent a single "Tweet" on Twitter since signing up (well, 1 which I had to do when I signed up, 276 days ago), yet in spite of that, I still have nearly 100 followers anyway! That isn't to say I will NEVER send a Tweet, but my view is that I plan on reserving my Tweets for appropriate opportunities, but just don't expect me to send Tweets just for the sake of doing it. I have things I'd rather be doing.

Not long ago, I did login to Twitter in order update those I actually follow. There are occasionally interesting comments and thoughts that emerge, but mostly they're it's like listening into a conference call on a subject you have limited interest in. Anyway, when I logged in, I also added a bunch of familiar people to my Twitter list. Like anything in social media, there is a tendency to do what your friends do on the site, but my rule has generally been only to follow people I actually know, which means that I am quite unlike Ashton Kucher in that I don't have a million followers nor do I follow a million people -- I don't want that many. I have no interest in following people I don't know, and I don't care if they follow me, either.

A while back, I posted an NPR commentary regarding Twitter on my Facebook page entitled "Keep Your Tweets to Yourself" (or, in plain text, it's a lot faster, see here)

I received a few comments from my followers on Facebook about their reasoning for using Twitter and why it can be valuable.

Fair enough. (I never said it was a totally useless application.)

As for Tweets, you may notice that I've added a widget to my blog in the right margin to display a few Twitter Tweets (I've limited it to just 2). I DO plan on using Twitter (sometime), but I expect to do so only on occasions that probably deserve it! For example, next month, I'll be attending the Roche Diabetes Social Media Conference in Indianapolis, and may find that to be a useful venue for 140-character micro-posts -- provided I figure out how to do so from my cell phone (I need to find the appropriate number to text to)! I will have limited access to the Internet while I'm there, but will have my mobile phone so I can send theoretically send short Tweets about things that are going on at that event.

For those who want my Tweets, yes, you can catch me at "sstrumello" on Twitter, but expect my Tweets to be very limited to specific occasions where they're likely to be a useful format for sharing information. Otherwise, I'm inclined to agree with NPR's John Ridley:

"We claim to be a nation of people who take our privacy very seriously. Just mention the idea of warrantless wiretaps and expect to get hit up with a congressional investigation.

But give somebody an avatar and a URL, and he can't tweet, post or hyperlink enough personal information about himself to as many people as possible.

Seriously, does valuable broadband space need to be taken up with announcements in that creepy Facebook third-person-ese that "John is enjoying two-for-one margaritas with the rest of the IT Team at T.G.I. Fridays"?

Where is the expectation of privacy anymore? Or, more correctly, where is the expectation that people will keep their private nonsense to themselves so that those of us who still like to communicate personal information with one person at a time don't have to get caught up in somebody else's e-mail circles or listen to their one-sided cell phone conversations?

No, I don't know what's hipper; to Facebook or to Twitter. I just know for me, personally, discretion never went out of style."

I won't be using Twitter to update much about my personal life, as I really don't feel Twitter is the appropriate venue for these kinds of posts. Also, I think some topics deserve more than 140 characters, and for those, don't expect to see any Tweets from me! But you can expect Tweets from me where I don't have access to the Internet or where timing of the message will be more important than the content.

So those are my thoughts on Twitter. Aren't you glad I shared that?


Sara said...

I'll admit it, I am a Twit.

One other benefit of the application for bloggers is that it helps direct readers to new posts. You can post a shortened URL to your blog entry, and often your followers will re-tweet (RT) the good ones, possibly spreading your readership.

Jim said...

I guess I'm a semi-Luddite. I enjoy Blogger/Blogspot, but all that other stuff leaves me cold. But, heck, I gave away all my TVs and radios back in 2005. I guess I really am a Luddite. A Luddite with a blog. Oxymoron, there.

Scott K. Johnson said...

Yeah, I do the tweeting thing too, and often tweet very silly and goofy stuff. But it is good entertainment, and I feel that I've gotten to know my online friends a bit better through it.

That being said, I can totally understand your perspective too.

Amy said...

Sorry, I was so busy tweeting that I missed this ;) My hubby says Twitter is "for self-absorbed people with nothing to do at work."

But I actually do find value in the connections, the interesting links, and the "entertainment aspect," as Scotty J puts it.

Still, good points you're making.

Bernard said...

Scott I'm also a Tweep (person who tweets). I have found it useful, especially if I'm going to a conference and may meet others I know there.

In the long term I really can't see the business model for Twitter. For now it's a useful tool for keeping in touch. For example, a tweet from AmyT pointed this post out to me.

Looking forward to seeing you again next week. Maybe I'll live tweet the sessions -- NOT.

k2 said...

I am also a Tweep, and love to connect with others, be them diabetes tweeps, friends in IRL, or other folks who tweet about topics I find interesting.
I will say I'm continually weeding out my FollowBox of Diabetes Snake Oil salesmen and the likes there of!
You make great points and wrote a great post!!
Kelly K